Magazine article Personnel

Education Needs Greater Corporate Involvement

Magazine article Personnel

Education Needs Greater Corporate Involvement

Article excerpt

The future of business and education are inextricably linked. Waves of national reports tie America's ability to compete in a global economy-and thus maintain our economic health-to the ability of our workforce to perform at world-class levels. The preparation of a world-class workforce is a fundamental goal of American education.

America's strongest economic competitors, including Japan and Germany, accept the premise that education and skills development are the keys to high wages and full employment. These countries have structured work environments to fully utilize the skills of the workforce and developed effective education and training systems to bring workers to world-class standards. According to recent studies by both the American Federation of Teachers and the Economic Policy Institute, these competitors are investing much more time and money in educating their children. Numerous other studies, including America's Choice: High Skills or Low Wages, report that employers in competing nations are also investing much more in their current workforce.

Business has a central role in helping the United States win the global economic race, if for no other reason than enlightened self-interest. Businesses can first affect what happens in schools by changing what happens in their own companies. Whether currently affected by international competition or not, companies must pursue high-performance work strategies and new forms of work organization.

According to a recent study by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), Put Quality to Work: Train America's Workforce, the game of economic competition has new rules that are changing the very nature of work. The ASTD study asserts that although productivity is still a necessary condition for competitive success, it is no longer enough. New competitive standards include quality, variety, customizing, convenience and timeliness. By these measures, the United States is losing in many sectors of the economy A new mix of competencies, knowledge and skills is necessary to meet these new standards.

However, the findings published in America's Choice show that a dismal 5 percent of American employers are pursuing this strategy More than 80 percent of the companies rank a good work ethic, reliability and other nonacademic traits as primary concerns. If business is to demand a workforce with high performance skills, it must simultaneously move to high-performance work in all sectors of the economy

Business must have, as a central strategy, the goal to change the education system so that schools prepare students to function at world-class levels in high-performance work settings. …

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